In this month’s issue of AUGUSTMAN, we photographed and interviewed 10 local personalities whom we felt have made, and are still making, the greatest impact on our country. It took a while to whittle down the shortlist of people, which numbered more than 50, to our final 10 and while there might be disagreements in a few quarters regarding the names that made the cut, this is our definitive list of 10 Singaporeans who are actually influential. It’s a great feature (if we do say so ourselves) and you should get your copy of the September issue when you can.
To whet your appetite, we’ve rounded up a laundry list of quotes and incidents, as well as the writer’s notes, from our chats + coffees + breakfasts that did not make the main story with five of the 10 featured personalities. Enjoy.
UPDATE: The second part of this feature can be read here.
Photos by Ivanho Harlim and Shysilia Novita
From the writer’s notebook: Soft-spoken. Intelligent. Articulate. Nice, almond-shaped eyes.
On the making of Apprentice: “I always felt that I was too young to make the kind of films that I wanted to make. The films that I love are made by filmmakers who are a lot older and have therefore, gotten more perspectives on life. So I was propelled by this sense of inadequacy, that I wanted to learn and know more about the subject I was researching about. I pushed myself to interview people and gain knowledge.”
On the controversial death penalty: “As with any discourse about any contentious issue, it is important that people have a fuller understanding. It’s not an easy conversation to have but it should be kept going. That’s why I wanted to tackle the story this way – from the point of view of a young executioner taking over from his older colleague. Then we can see and consider a different perspective.”
Ang Peng Siong
The first draft consigned to the bin: I was late to meet Ang Peng Siong, my tardiness a combination of terrible traffic and my Uber driver’s unfamiliarity with the roads around Farrer Park. But Ang was all smiles and hand waves when I finally appeared at 915 in the morning, 15 minutes after our agreed meeting time. “Let’s go get breakfast,” he says in a tone that’s far too chirpy for someone who had been awake since 5am. He tells me that’s the time he always wakes up at while putting his Audi into gear.
On the timeline of the emphasis on sports: “I think the change in mindset occurred when the ministry took the initiative to create a sporting culture. This was back in the year 2000. I was one of the members of the committee. This was also when we decided on the Goal 2010 project. (laughs) Sports is always about daring to dream and going for it, right?”
On the ROI-centric sporting system: “We need to understand that the investment we put into the sports system doesn’t necessarily translate to success. It will only be the rare occasion that you get one or two who will come forward and succeed. But that doesn’t mean the system and the process is a failure.”
“I was in conflict with myself in the past four years. Let me tell you man, it’s been a roller coaster. First it was dealing with my identity as an artist. I had an awakening at one point. I realised that a lot of things are not the way it’s supposed to be. We are living in a way that seems quite frivolous or scary, to me at least. At that point in time, I just felt that I could not make things better. I saw that the whole world… a lot of things just slip under the radar when it could be made better. And it was so frustrating for me because I could not make it better. It was an existentialist crisis. I felt a great shift in energy and I couldn’t make peace with myself on top of that. This crisis was what led me to create Indigoism.”
Quotes from around the studio while waiting for the legend to turn up for his photo shoot.
“Wah, I still have his posters and magazines from that time in my drawer leh. I should have brought them for him to sign.”
“His sons are very good looking. Are they coming for the shoot?”
“Eh, you think I can become friends with him to get closer to his sons? Maybe he will invite me to his house for Hari Raya.”
On the Singapore football scene: “I feel that in the last 10 years, Singapore football has moved backwards. I’m frustrated. I get frustrated every time I see our team lose, especially the youth. We’ve never lost to many teams lower than us before, and now, we’re even losing to Brunei! It’s sickening. That means that we’re not moving forward… or we don’t have the right people to run it.”
On the Michelin Guide Singapore: “I think there are issues on the quality. There are a lot of missing elements in the Guide and it feels like they had not enough time to put it together properly. The ratings given were also a tad controversial, I have to say. It might confuse the traditional user of the Michelin Guide who sees it as certain representation of tradition more than the actual quality. I think what it has done with Singapore is that it has broken away from tradition and included hawkers and the like, which might be dangerous.”
On the F&B scene in Singapore: “How do F&B establishments in Singapore survive and thrive? Open, close, change, open. The staff also keeps changing, which is not good. It’s like a band. If the members keep changing, then there is no depth. You need stability to go to the next level and compete with the true dining worlds like New York, Tokyo, Paris and London. You change for the sake of changing.”